Radio continues to garner audiences, with 3 billion listeners worldwide

06 March 2019

Predictions about the death of radio as a medium may be well exaggerated, finds a new study by Deloitte. The medium generates around $40 billion in revenues annually from around 3 billion listeners. More than 95% of US respondents listen to the radio at least monthly, even if their self-reported listening is only half that. Educated and working people remain the main consumers in the medium.

The Buggles sang that "video killed the radio star," but then streamers killed the video star, and one day intracranial VR avatars are going kill the streaming star. However, while the number of channels through which media is being propagated has both rapidly evolved and increased – from YouTube to Twitch to podcasts to  Hulu – radio is still reaching billions. 

To better understand how the radio market has changed over the past decade and what the future holds, Deloitte released its ‘Technology, Media, and Telecommunications Predictions 2019’ report into the industry.Relative stability of radio marketRadio continues to be a leading medium of entertainment and information dissemination globally. In 2018 around 3 billion people listened to the radio at least once per week, with around 85% of the adult population in the developed world listening to the radio once per week. On average around 90 minutes of radio is listened to, per day. Overall, the global radio industry had revenues in excess of $40 billion in 2018.

In the US, radio remains a resilient format, even in the face of a host of new forms of media consumption, including streaming audio services and podcasts. Traditional television has in recent years seen its share of time decline as other forms of entertainment have taken precedence: between 2014 and 2018 the 18-34 demographic reduced their time spent watching TV by 10.4%. Meanwhile radio consumption for the same age group declined by 3.4%.People consistently underestimate how much they listen to radioThe study also found that people are underestimating the amount of time that they listen to the radio. Measurements of radio listening frequency against self-reported radio listening found considerable discrepancies – reflecting in part the passive nature of radio listening (it tends to be on in the background). In the US for instance, in the 18-24 year old demographic, 95% listen to the radio at least monthly, while they self-report listening to the radio at a much lower 52%. In the 25-34 demographic the numbers hit 98% 'actual' vs. 60% self-reported, respectively.

Revenues from radio are also relatively stable. The research also found that revenue for radio in Canada has been relatively steady, declining at 1% annually between 2012 and 2016. While satellite radio services have seen revenues grow by 6% annually during the same period. In the UK, meanwhile, after a period of decline, radio advertising was up 12.5% in 2018 – the fastest growing advertisement segment globally.Employment and educational statues reflects radio listening activityRadio consumption also tends to be more associated with higher education and income demographics. Those working were slightly more likely to listen to the radio than non-workers, at 71% vs. 61% respectively. Meanwhile, those with higher incomes were considerably more likely to be listening to the radio, with a 75% share of those making over $75,000; meanwhile, only half of those in the sub-$25,000 income bracket were radio listeners.  

College education was also noted as an indicator of radio consumption, with 74% of bachelor's degree holders listening to radio, but only 54% of those with no college experience. How much is radio worth per capita per yearThe per capita income per listener per year was found to vary significantly between country, with the industry in Canada and Germany generating around $20 per person per year, while in Sweden and Australia this figure increases to $40 per person per year. In the UK and France around $25 per person per year is raised; while globally the average comes in at around $10.

The US remains the dominant player in the radio market, with total revenues in excess of $21 billion. Germany takes second spot with revenues of around $3.8 billion, with China at third with revenues of around $2.2 billion. A number of major developed markets come in at around the $1.5 billion mark, including the UK, France, and Japan.

Related: Global podcast revenues to boom to $1.6 billion by 2022


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